Moore County substation attack
|Moore County substation attack|
|Location||Moore County, North Carolina, U.S.|
|Date||December 3, 2022 |
c. 7:00 p.m. (EST)
|Target||Duke Energy substations|
On December 3, 2022, a shooting attack was carried out on two electrical distribution substations located in Moore County, North Carolina, United States. Damage from the attack left up to 40,000 residential and business customers without electrical power. Initial estimates were that up to four days could be required to fully restore power in the area. A state of emergency and corresponding curfew were enacted by local government officials in the wake of the incident.
Less than two weeks prior to the Moore County substation incident, the FBI had sent a report to private industry in which they stated that there had been an increase in reported threats to electric infrastructure from people who espouse “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist ideology", with an aim of creating civil disorder and inspiring further violence. The Department of Homeland Security cited
a 14-page document released in a Telegram channel favored by accelerationist groups seeking to speed the overthrow of the US government featured a white supremacist instruction guide to low-tech attacks meant to bring chaos, including how to attack a power grid with guns.
While it is unclear whether such threats are directly associated with this attack, government officials have previously expressed concern over the possibility of violent extremists attacking the electrical grid. Prior to the Moore County attack, other attacks on the electrical grid had occurred in Metcalf, California in 2013, in Arkansas in 2013, in Utah in 2016 and in Washington and Oregon (dates undisclosed).
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According to Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields, a Duke Energy power substation was severely damaged by gunfire in Carthage at around 7 p.m. Gunfire was later directed at a second substation in West End, ultimately resulting in a loss of electrical power to the majority of the county. A journalist from a local newspaper reported that one of the substations' gates had been damaged and was lying in an access road, with the pole holding the gate having been snapped off at the ground.
Outages began starting just after 7 p.m. on December 4 in Moore County and spread to central and southern parts of the county, with roughly 36,000 customers reported to be without power. Duke Energy officials indicated that significant, serious damage had occurred to equipment located at the substations and that repairs could take several days.
In addition to the Moore County Sheriff's Department, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and police departments from all eleven municipalities in Moore County are participating in the investigation. The Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER) of the Department of Energy is also reported to be assisting.
Investigators revealed that they had recovered about two dozen shell-casings, described as being from a "high powered rifle", from the attack sites. These casings were expected to be used to query the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network for possible matches with casings fired from the same weapon at other crime scenes. The casings, some of the only physical evidence available, were also being looked at as a starting point which could lead to other evidence such as tire tracks or shoe prints.
On December 7, 2022, Governor Roy Cooper announced that a reward of up to $75,000 was being offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case. The money consists of three separate $25,000 rewards, offered by the State of North Carolina, Duke Energy, and Moore County.
After the incident, numerous posts on the internet have speculated that the attack was an attempt to disrupt a local drag show that was taking place in the nearby town of Southern Pines that evening; however, these claims are unconfirmed and disputed.
By December 7, investigators were focusing on two possible motives for the attack. One scenario relates to known online writings by domestic extremists, which encourage attacks on critical infrastructure; the other relates to anti-LGBTQ+ activity. Investigators said they still have no evidence specifically tying the attack to the contemporaneous drag show, but the timing of the two incidents, as well as a general growth in tension around LGBTQ+ events, leads them to consider a possible connection.
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As of December 6, it was estimated that about 35,000 Moore County residents were still without power, and the timeline for completing repairs and restoring power county-wide was revised from December 8 to midnight December 7.By the morning of December 7, the number of affected residents without power was down to about 23,000, and power had been restored to the Moore County hospital. Additionally, the Duke Energy website stated "All substation equipment damaged from recent vandalism has either been fully repaired or replaced." By 4 p.m. on December 7, the number of customers remaining without power had dropped to approximately 1,200. As a result, it was announced that the curfew would be permanently lifted as of 5 a.m. on the morning of December 8.
A Moore County resident died during the power outage and investigators are determining whether the death was related to the outage, which could have implications for any criminal charges.
As a result of the power outage, Moore County Regional Hospital was forced to operate on generator power. The town of Southern Pines also had to resort to operating their sewer and water services on backup generators. Residents of the area were asked to stay off the roads if possible or proceed with caution due to the absence of traffic lights.
On December 4, a curfew was placed in effect for Moore County, from 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. The nightly curfew was expected to remain in effect until the power was restored. A shelter was established at the Moore County Sports Complex, and Moore County schools were ordered closed from December 5 through December 8 as a result of the power outage.
During a press conference shortly after the attacks, Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields claimed the substations were targeted and that attack was intentional. Fields also claimed that the perpetrators most likely knew what they were doing but did not state that the attacks may have been domestic terrorism. The sheriff also reported that his office has not been able to tie anything back to a drag show in Southern Pines, scheduled around the time the power went out, thereby addressing a rumor that began on social media.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper issued a statement via Twitter, saying, "An attack like this on critical infrastructure is a serious, intentional crime and I expect state and federal authorities to thoroughly investigate and bring those responsible to justice."
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Source: "Moore County substation attack", Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, (2023, January 25th), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moore_County_substation_attack.
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- "'Intentional, willful and malicious': 40K without power after substation attacks in Moore County". The Fayetteville Observer. December 4, 2022. Retrieved December 4, 2022 – via Associated Press.
- "Gunfire that cut power to a North Carolina county was a selfish and cruel act that has hurt thousands, mayor says". CNN. December 6, 2022.
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- "The attacks on power substations in Moore County weren't the first of their kind".
- "Other states reporting power outage attacks similar to North Carolina, Moore County, document says". December 7, 2022.
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- Salahieh, Nouran (December 5, 2022). "More than 30,000 customers remain without power in North Carolina after 2 substations were damaged by gunfire. Here's what we know". CNN. Retrieved December 5, 2022.
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- Rubin, April; Albeck-Ripka, Livia; Stevens, Matt (December 4, 2022). "North Carolina Power Outages Caused by Gunfire at Substations, Officials Say". The New York Times. Retrieved December 4, 2022.
- "Moore County authorities investigate social posts claiming knowledge of Moore County blackout". WRAL-TV. Capitol Broadcasting Company. December 4, 2022. Retrieved December 5, 2022.
- "Terrorists Attack a Drag Show in Moore County, North Carolina". Gay Pride - LGBT and Queer Voices. December 4, 2022. Retrieved December 5, 2022.
- Talhelm, Matt. "'We don't scare that easy:' Performers in protested drag show describe the moment the power went out in Moore County".
- "Investigators are zeroing in on two possible motives centered around extremist behavior in NC power stations attacks, sources say". CNN. December 7, 2022.
- "More than 10,000 customers restored as Duke Energy continues progress in Moore County" (Press release). Duke Energy. December 6, 2022.
- Johnson, Kristen; Quillin, Martha; Baumgartner Vaughan, Dawn (December 9, 2022). "Power back on at Moore County hospital, substation repaired, as FBI seeks information". The News & Observer. Retrieved January 17, 2023.
- "Person found dead in Moore County after power grid attack". December 6, 2022.
- Athans, Elaina (December 7, 2022). "White House closely monitoring Moore County power grid attack, National Security Council says". ABC11. Retrieved December 5, 2022.
- "All-Out Effort Underway to Investigate Power Station Attack". The Pilot. December 5, 2022. Retrieved January 17, 2023.
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